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Ann Meyers | Biopharming Research Unit

Research | Publications | Lab members | Telephone +27 21 650 5712 | Facsimile +27 21 650 2646


I grew up in Pietermaritzburg and came to UCT to study a BSc in 1983. I graduated in 1985 and then did a BSc Hons at UCT in 1987.  After travelling overseas for 2 years and subsequently working as a Scientific Officer in the Department of Microbiology at UCT I enrolled for my PhD in the department in 1996 where I investigated the bacterial pathogens of the red macroalga Gracilaria gracilis and its response to bacterial infection.  I obtained my PhD in 1999 and took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at UWC for a year working on marker assisted selection of disease-resistance apples.  In 2000, I took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Prof Ed Rybicki’s research group where I worked on the development of a HIV-1 Gag virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine in plants.  In 2010 I was appointed as a Research Officer and embarked on a new project involving the production of Bluetongue virus (BTV) particles in plants as a potential animal vaccine.  
My research interests lie in the expression of recombinant proteins, diagnostics and subunit vaccines (particularly veterinary vaccines) in plants.   I am currently a Senior Research Officer in the same research group – now called the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) and focus on the production of second generation VLP vaccines against BTV as well as the related African horse sickness virus (AHSV). In addition, I am working on the production of AHSV antigens which can potentially be used as diagnostic reagents in ELISA as well as other potential antigens for emerging infectious diseases such as CCHFV, CHIKV and WNV. Since 2000 I have supervised and co-supervised a total of 11 MSc students and 8 PhD students as well as 17 honours students.


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Lab members
More informationDr Sandiswa Mbewana
Post-doctoral fellow
More informationDr Emmanuel Margolin
Post-doctoral fellow
Dr Sue DennisMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Dr Alta van ZylMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Matt VerbeekMore information
Scientific officer
Jennifer StanderMore information
PhD student
Jason NaudeMore information
MSc student
Phindile XimbaMore information
PhD student
Asanda MatisoMore information
MSc student
More informationShelley Fearon
MSc student
Tim PlasketMore information
MSc student
Munyaradzi TinarwoMore information
MSc student
Abigail GwynnMore information
MSc student
Mulondo GoodmanMore information
NRF intern

Dr Sandiswa Mbewana
Post-doctoral fellow

I am a Biotechnologist specializing in Plant Biotechnology. My Bsc Biotechnology degree was obtained at the University of the Western Cape in 2005. My post graduate studies (BSc Hons and MSc in Wine biotechnology) were completed at Stellenbosch University. My MSc was on the analysis of possible fungal resistance phenotype in transgenic tobacco plants over-expressing the native cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase gene. The key study area was Grapevine biotechnology focusing on disease resistance.
I have also worked as a Scientific Officer in the plant based vaccine group. My project was on the development of an avian influenza virus (H5N1) vaccine using plants and insect cell expression system. Now am have enrolled for a PhD on development of rift valley fever virus vaccine.
Dr Emmanuel Margolin
Podt-doctoral fellow
I completed my undergraduate studies in the Molecular and Cell Biology department at UCT before moving to Medical School for postgraduate training. I am currently working for the HIV Vaccine Development Group at Medical School on a MRC- funded project which aims to develop next generation HIV vaccines, for the induction of neutralizing antibodies. During the course of the project I was responsible for the development of a transient expression system for the production of HIV-1 Envelope glycoprotein trimers in plants and their immunogenicity testing in animals. This aspect of the project is hosted in the Biopharming research unit where I work closely with Dr Ann Meyers and Prof Ed Rybicki. 

This study is ongoing and is currently focused on improving the glycosylation and folding of these HIV Env antigens, as well as expanding the range of glycoproteins produced with this platform. My main research interests at present are the production of viral glycoproteins in plants and mammalian cells for use as vaccine antigens. I also have an ongoing interest in the modification of the plant secretory pathway for the optimal production of candidate vaccines.
Dr Alta van Zyl
Post-doctoral fellow
AltaI have been a member of the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) since starting my PhD in 2009.  My PhD was focussed on the development of plant-based vaccine candidates for Bluetongue virus.  My research interests focus on the expression of recombinant proteins in plants, particularly proteins that can be used as potential vaccine candidates in humans and animals.  As a Post-doctoral fellow in the BRU I have worked on the development of a platform for the expression of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine candidates in plants. My current research project focuses on the production of candidate vaccines against Lassa fever virus (LASV), Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) and Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV).
Dr Sue Dennis
Post-doctoral fellow
Sue DennisI completed my undergraduate studies at Stellenbosch University in 1985 followed by an Honours degree in Molecular Biology in 1986. I moved to Pretoria in 1987 to work on Bluetongue Virus at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute and while there, obtained an MSc degree in 1990 from the University of Pretoria. The next 25 years were spent assisting my husband, David, with the administration of his medical practice and being a Mom to our four children.

I registered for a PhD in 2015 in Prof Rybicki's Biopharming Research Unit working on the development of safe and cost effective VLP candidate vaccines against African horse sickness and graduated in July 2019. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow in the BRU under the supervision of Prof Ed Rybicki, Assoc Prof Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Ann Meyers, where I am continuing to work with AHSV vaccine development while co-supervising other students on the project.
Matt Verbeek
Scientific officer
Matt VerbeekI am a typical Joburg boy having grown up in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg. I moved down to Cape Town in 2012 to start my undergrad degree at UCT and seem to have fallen in love with the mother city. I completed my BSc in Chemistry and Biochemistry as well both my Honours and MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology, the latter within the BRU.
I am currently employed as a Scientific Officer under Dr Emmanuel Margolin to focus on research around the expression of notable viral glycoproteins in the pursuit of developing plant expressed vaccine candidates. The area of foremost importance being research into the development of a possible plant expressed HIV vaccine candidate.
Jennifer Stander
PhD student
JenniferI grew up in Gauteng and completed my BSc, BSc Honours and MSc in Microbiology at the University of Pretoria. My studies focused on establishing a high-throughput sequencing-based diagnostic system for the detection of grapevine viruses. My fascination with viruses and their diagnosis led me to BRU at the University of Cape Town, with their new and exciting approaches to serological reagent and vaccine development.
Working under the supervision of Prof. Ed Rybicki and Dr Ann Meyers, my PhD is focused on the expression of the West Nile Virus NS1 and prM-E genes as reagents for serological detection and VLPs as a candidate vaccine in N. benthamiana.
Phindile Ximba
PhD student
PhindileI am originally from the small town in the Northern side of KZN. I completed my B.Sc in Biochemistry and Chemistry at University of KwaZulu Natal in 2011. I then completed MSc in Biochemistry in 2014, also at UKZN. My MSc project focused on recombinant expression and characterisation of trypanosomal cysteine proteases for the development of point-of-care diagnostic tests for animal trypanosomiasis. In 2015, I joined UCT Medical Virology lab as a scientific officer working on the SHIP project focusing on developing HIV-1 Env subunit vaccines to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies. I am currently registered as a PhD student under the co-supervision of Dr Ros Chapman, Prof. Anna-Lise Williamson, Dr Ann Mayers and Prof. Ed Rybicki. My project is focusing on using different tags to improve the production and immunogenicity of Env produced in both mammalian and plant expression systems.
Shelley Fearon
MSc student
Shelley FearonI completed my BSc in Genetics and Ecology and BSc (Hons) in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town.
I am currently pursuing an MSc in the Biopharming Research Unit under the supervision of Dr. Ann Meyers, Dr. Inga Hitzeroth and Prof. Ed Rybicki. My project focuses on the African horse sickness virus (AHSV), a devastating, highly infectious disease affecting equids. The research involves producing AHSV-specific antibodies and VP7 crystalline-particles in plants, for the development of potential therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines.
Asanda Matiso
MSc student
AsandaI'm originally from King William's Town in the Eastern Cape. I completed my National diploma in Biotechnology (2010 - 2012) and BTech degree in Biomedical Technology (2013 - 2014) at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I first joined BRU in April 2016 as a NRF intern. I am currently pursuing my MSc under the supervision of Dr Ann Meyers, Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Prof Ed Rybicki. My project focuses on the use of a mouse phage display library to generate single chain variable fragments (scFvs) antibodies against Ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase or RuBisCO which is regarded as the main potential contaminant in plant produced proteins.
Tim Plasket
MSc student
TimI grew up in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. I moved to Cape Town to study at UCT in 2014. I completed my BSc with majors in Biochemistry and Genetics in 2016, which I then followed with a BSc(Hons) in Molecular and Cell Biology in 2017.
I am currently in the Biopharming Research Unit studying towards my MSc under the supervision of Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Rosemary Meggersee. My project focuses on the African Horse Sickness Virus (AHSV), a midge-borne disease which severely affects equids in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am particularly interested in generating antibody-like molecules (short chain variable fragments or ScFvs) derived from a phage display library which are specific to AHSV serotype 5.
Munyaradzi Tinarwo
MSc student
MunyaradziI am currently an MSc student with interests in biopharming and virology. I am a holder of B.Tech (Hons) in Biotechnology from Chinhoyi University of Technology (Zimbabwe) and a BSc (Hons) in Microbiology from North-West University (South Africa). I am currently working on the African horse sickness virus for my MSc research. Previously, I have worked on Optimization of the Isolation and Cloning Techniques of the Kinase Domain of the Triphosphate Tunnel Metalloenzyme (TTM) gene from Arabidopsis thaliana. I also worked on the reduction of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) in distillery effluent by bioaugmentation techniques.
Jason Naude
MSc student
JasonI completed my BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry and joined the Biopharming Research Unit in my honours year. My research, which I took into Masters, involves the expression of two variants of the chikungunya virus (CHIKV) envelope 2 glycoprotein in tobacco plants for the development of a diagnostic reagent and a candidate vaccine.  CHIKV is a rapidly re-emerging arbovirus that is responsible for the largest epidemic for an alphavirus in the world.  There is neither a licensed vaccine against CHIKV nor a rapid diagnostic assay to screen for CHIKV infection. CHIKV infection displays identical symptoms to that of dengue, Ebola, Zika and yellow fever viruses. This is a problem as prognosis, treatment and patient care are very different between these similarly-symptomatic viruses.
Abigail Gwynn
MSc student
I grew up in Durban and moved to Cape Town in 2016 to study my undergraduate BSc degree at UCT majoring in genetics and biochemistry. I also completed my honours degree in molecular and cell biology at UCT. I was able to conduct my honours research project in my first choice lab – the BRU! My project aimed to produce an effective chimeric bluetongue virus-like particle vaccine in plants. This virus causes severe disease in sheep and is particularly a problem in South Africa where there are over 28 serotypes in circulation. I loved working in the BRU not only because of the science I was getting to do but also because of the welcoming environment. In the short time given for the honours project, I was able to make promising progress and am very lucky to be continuing with my BTV project for my MSc degree under the supervision of Dr Ann Meyers and Dr Sandiswa Mbewana.
Mulondo Goodman 
NRF intern
MulondoI am currently a DST-NRF intern in the Biopharming Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. I grew up in Malamangwa village in Limpopo province. I completed my Honours and Masters degree at the University of Venda. My honours project was based on the evaluation of the Qiagen DNA mini kit (commercial) against a standardized in-house extraction method for E. coli DNA from water samples, while my MSc project was based on the Characterization of human norovirus in Vhembe district, Limpopo province, South Africa.